EATON — There were no losers on the Eaton soccer pitch last night in the district semifinal matchup between Bethel and troy Christian in D-III action Tuesday night.
That was clear for the nearly 95 minutes it took for Bethel to get the game’s only goal in a 1-0 victory between the two rivals — and just as clear after the stunning end.
Bethel, 16-1-2, moves on to a district championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday night against Miami East at Bellefontaine High School, while Troy Christian closes another successful campaign at 9-6-4.
Even after Kyle Brueckman’s goal left players and coaches almost speechless, sportsmanship was evident.
Both Brueckman and Casey Keesee, whose corner kick led to the goal, could be seen going over to the Troy Christian bench and consoling a devastated Troy Christian player.
And those feelings were returned.
“Nothing but respect for Bethel,” Troy Christian coach Ryan Zeman said. “What can you say about Bob Hamlin (the Bethel coach). He has been coaching longer than I have been alive. We will be cheering Bethel on as they continue their postseason run. I am just kind of shocked right now.”
And Hamlin has the same kind of respect for Troy Christian.
“You know, our league is the best D-III league in the state,” Hamlin said about the Three Rivers Conference. “You have to bring your A game every single night. This game was like just like the first two. It was back and forth all night.”
As in the first two meetings, Bethel goalie Nolan Flomerfelt and Troy Christian goalie Tanner Conklin were up to every challenge all night long.
“The first two times we played, it was a 0-0 tie,” Brueckman said. “And tonight, there were no goals again for 80 minutes (regulation). That is pretty amazing.”
It looked like it might be the same way in overtime to led to the game being decided by PKs.
But, with 1:15 remaining in the first overtime, the game came to a stunning end.
Casey Keesee took a corner kick for Bethel from the left side and after the ball richocheted off Bethel’s Ethan Tallmadge’s head, it landed at the feet of Brueckman and he did the rest.
“The ball hit Ethan Tallmadge in the head,” Brueckman said. “It was in front of me and I was able to whip my left foot around and kick it in. It is incredible (to get a game-winning goal like that).”
Keesee was amazed by what he saw.
“Of course, we had a play on,” he said. “But, that was amazing (the way it ended). I am speechless right now.”
Zeman can only think about what could have been.
“I am so proud of my kids and my seniors for the effort they gave,” he said. “It has been an amazing season. We played a really tough schedule. Seven of our games in the regular season were against state-ranked teams. We were traveling all over playing great teams. Right now, I just don’t know what to say.”
Now Bethel prepares for another TRC opponent — with the district title on the line.
After a night where sportsmanship and competitive soccer were the big winners.